Turkey-trained Iraqi troops proving effectiveness, US says
REUTERS photoSunni Arab tribal fighters trained by Turkey at a camp in northern Iraq have proven their battlefield mettle, the United States said Jan. 11.
Speaking to reporters from Baghdad, Army Col. Brett Sylvia, commander of the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition’s advise and assist mission in Iraq, said the Turkish-trained forces have “proven that they were able to hold that ground behind the Iraqi army.”
“After the 16th Iraqi Army Division has pushed through certain areas, has cleared those areas of ISIL, they were able to move some of these tribal fighters and to hold that ground to prevent any, you know, infiltration of ISIL behind them,” state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Sylvia as saying.
Turkey is currently training local Sunni Arab forces at a camp in Bashiqa, located approximately 30 kilometers northeast of Mosul, where an operation began three months ago to liberate it from ISIL militants.
Turkey-trained forces are now part of “tribal hold forces,” a variation of the popular mobilization forces trained to secure their local area, the U.S. said previously.
In recent months, the Turkish presence near Mosul has led to tension between Baghdad and Ankara amid calls by the Iraqi parliament for the Turkish troops to withdraw.
Ankara, for its part, has repeatedly stressed its respect for Iraq’s territorial integrity.
Speaking from Iraq on Jan. 7, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said his country’s military presence at the Bashiqa camp was being maintained “out of necessity” and that they would solve the issue “in a friendly manner.”
On Jan. 11, Iraqi Ambassador to Ankara Hisham al-Allawi said Turkey and Iraq had agreed that Turkish troops would withdraw from the Bashiqa camp after the end of the Mosul offensive.
Meanwhile, Sylvia also said ISIL militants were using small commercial drones to attack Iraqi security forces in the battle for Mosul.
Sylvia said ISIL fighters were attaching small munitions to quadcopters in an attempt to kill local forces as they retake Mosul, the last major ISIL bastion in Iraq.
“They are small drones with small munitions that they’ve been dropping,” Sylvia said, according to AFP.
While the munitions were no larger than “a small little grenade,” he said, that was enough to do what “Daesh does, and that’s just, you know, indiscriminate killing,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
The group’s use of small drones is not new, Sylvia said, though initially they were mainly used for reconnaissance.
“They are [now] using them to drop munitions as Iraqi forces push into Mosul,” he said.